Understanding materials atom by atom: a new era of aberration corrected electron microscopy

author: Andrew Bleloch, School of Engineering, University of Liverpool
published: Dec. 7, 2010,   recorded: March 2010,   views: 4097

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The microscope is one of the oldest tools used by scientists to extend the reach of their senses. Since the world around us, both natural and synthetic, is made up of atoms, a microscope capable of showing us which atoms are where, arguably, gives a complete characterisation of that world. The electron microscope was, until the middle of the 1990’s, hampered by the poor quality of charged particle lenses. 15 years of spherical (and latterly chromatic) aberration correction has since given a crucial factor-of-two improvement in resolution so that routine atom by atom characterisation of materials is now possible. The SuperSTEM Laboratory in the UK was the first national facility to offer aberration corrected analysis of materials to the UK materials community. Case studies of the application of aberration technology, using both imaging and spectrometry, to a wide variety of materials problems ranging from the toxicity of nano-scale carbon materials through catalyst nano-particles to defects in perovskites and semiconductor interfaces will be presented.

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